Kathmandu, Jul 21 (efe-epa).- Nepal announced on Tuesday that it was lifting a four-month long lockdown to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus, although international borders will continued to be sealed and some restrictions will remain in place until an unspecified date.
Government spokesperson and Finance Minister Yuvaraj Khatiwada said in a press briefing that restrictions on businesses and the movement of people will effectively end from midnight on Tuesday, nearly four months after the measure was imposed on Mar. 24.
“All activities should be carried out by maintaining social distancing, wearing masks and washing hands frequently and following all other health safety protocols,” said Khatiwada.
In a cabinet meeting on Monday, the government had decided to lift bans on international and domestic flights starting Aug. 17, a date which would also mark the resumption of long-haul road transport services in the country.
Khatiwada said that some primary sport activities and training for international competitions would be allowed from July 30.
However, educational institutions would continue to remain closed except for enrollment of fresh students and preparations for examinations that have been halted by the epidemic.
All exhibitions, gatherings, party places, gyms as well as religious and social places will remain closed and international borders will remain sealed until further notice.
Khatiwada said that the government would allow hotels and restaurants to open from July 30 onwards along with trekking and mountaineering activities.
“The objective of the decision is to not hamper the upcoming tourists season in autumn,” he said, adding that the decision will allow travel businesses to begin bookings for the upcoming tourist season.
The autumn tourist season – which lasts from September to November – attracts around one-third of the nearly 1.2 million tourists arriving in Nepal annually.
Although it is not the main season to visit Mt Everest, large number of visitors arrive to trek and climb smaller peaks during these months.
Apart from treks to the Everest base camp, thousands of tourists travel across the country to remote valleys and peaks, giving a boost to the local economy and generating employment for nearly half a million Nepalis, mostly as trekking and mountaineering guides.
The coronavirus crisis has severely affected tourism, the mainstay of the country’s economy, with earnings projected to drop by 60 percent or $400 million, according to a United Nations report.
Khum Bahadur Subedi, president of the Trekking Agencies Association of Nepal, told EFE that the four-months of lockdown had rendered at least 350,000 people jobless in the mountaineering tourism sector.
The Himalayan country has registered a total of 17,994 cases of the new coronavirus and 40 deaths by Tuesday, according to health ministry data.
The ministry said that 12,477 patients had already recovered from the disease. EFE-EPA